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Off the Shelf: Text one

Text messages increasingly popular, increasing cell phone bills

 by Tara Brite  published on Thursday, March 10, 2005

<em>Photo illustration by Brandon Quester</em><br>
With the ongoing craze of text messaging, cell phone users are emptying their pockets 10 cents at a time.  Bills reaching hundreds of dollars have become a common monthly occurrence among many cell phone numbers. /issues/arts/692388
Brandon Quester
Photo illustration by Brandon Quester
With the ongoing craze of text messaging, cell phone users are emptying their pockets 10 cents at a time. Bills reaching hundreds of dollars have become a common monthly occurrence among many cell phone numbers.
 

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It is a dark and stormy evening when Julia Shal walks to her mailbox, the rain pounding the pavement.

Thunder rumbles and a bolt of lightning flashes through the sky. Shal inserts her key into the mailbox, opens the door and reaches inside.

She flips through the envelopes as a sharp crack of thunder pierces the air. Shal screams and jumps, letting the mail drop to the ground. On top is Shal's monthly cell phone bill.

Like Shal, a pre-business sophomore, many students are shocked by their cell phone bills, which are skyrocketing after they send excessive text messages without thinking about the cost.

Many cell phone companies raise the price of the text messages after a set amount, often creating a trap for customers who struggle to pay their way out.

Shal says she pays an additional $3 every month on her T-Mobile cell phone bill for 300 text messages, but she usually ends up sending many more. T-Mobile charges her 5 cents for each additional message. Shal says because of this extra text-message charge combined with her excessive talking, her average $65 cell phone bill often ends up in the triple digits.

Though she refuses to admit how bad her bill has been in the past, she says, "I go way over my limit."

Though the phone company also offers a plan in which customers can pay an additional $7 for 1,000 messages, Shal says she never purchases it because it seems excessive, even though it would save her money most months.

However, Shal says her phone plan offers a tracking system, so customers can keep track of how many text messages they have used throughout the month. Because of this system, she says she usually knows how expensive her phone bill is going to be.

"It isn't shocking," she says, as her phone beeps from her pocket, indicating a new text message. "It's more like 'Oh, crap.' "

As she pulls her phone from her pocket in one swift motion, she is soon giggling over her newest text message.

While simultaneously hitting the keys of her cell phone pad to type out a message, Shal says, "It's your own responsibility to track how many text messages you send."

She adds, "It is difficult to do because it counts how many are sent to you, as well as how many you are sending."

Chemistry sophomore Alex Volosin says he has only 50 text messages included in his phone plan with Sprint.

Although he now only sends from 20 to 30 messages per month on his telephone, he says he used to have a bad habit of sending far too many.

"What really gets you is incoming and outgoing messages when they both count," he says.

Volosin says the most messages he ever sent and received in a one-month period were to his high school girlfriend, though he never exceeded 100 messages.

"My friend's sister did 3,000 in one month," he says, scratching his head in disbelief.

Volosin says phone companies should be clearer about what messages count -- whether incoming, outgoing or both.

"It's deceiving when they don't define what your free monthly allotment of messages goes towards," he says. "The services are grossly overpriced as it is."

While he says sending 3,000 messages in a month leans toward irresponsibility, Volosin shakes his head at cell phone companies.

"Phone companies are evil," he says. "That's what they're all about."

Shal disagrees, saying it is ultimately the customer's responsibility.

Once again typing away on her cell phone, she says, "You know what you're doing sending those messages. But you think, 'It's only just 5 more cents.' "

She pauses a moment to return her phone to her pocket. "But that 5 cents turns into a really big bill in the end."

Despite the large phone bills, many people, especially students, seem to be addicted to text messaging.

Shal says she sends an abundance of text messages because they are easier than leaving voicemails, which many people do not check.

"If you text someone, you know they will eventually have to take a look at it," she says.

While she denies an addiction to the service, she says, laughing, "My phone bill will suggest otherwise."

Volosin says he sends text messages because they are convenient.

"It's an e-mail that you can send straight to someone's pants," he says.

Reach the reporter at tara.brite@asu.edu



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